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1998 National Cleaning Survey

To help meet the information needs of consumers, The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) wanted to learn more about the attitudes of Americans toward hygiene and how they protect themselves against potential health threats in the home. A survey conducte d for SDA by Roper Starch Worldwide Research revealed that many Americans understand the connection between health and hygiene, but lack some key information about how the right cleaning practices can help maintain good health.

According to Peg Jordan, R.N., founder and editor of American Fitness Magazine, "Just as people know they should eat right and exercise for reasons that go beyond physical appearance, they should also realize that cleaning regularly and practicing good personal hygiene can help keep them healthy."

Here's what we learned from the 1998 SDA National Cleaning Survey:

Americans See a Clean Connection Between Health and Hygiene
But Knowledge Gaps Exist in Their Understanding

1998 SDA National Cleaning Survey
Key Research Findings

Who's Keeping House?
A Look at American Lifestyle Changes That Affect Our Cleaning Needs


Americans See a Clean Connection Between Health and Hygiene
But Knowledge Gaps Exist in Their Understanding

NEW YORK, NY, March 20, 1998 – Most Americans know the link between cleaning and health, according to a new national study conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide Research and released today by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA). But closing a few know ledge gaps could help boost their understanding of how the right cleaning practices can help protect people against the spread of some common germs and allergens and result in a healthier indoor environment.

"Time-stressed Americans can’t afford to get sick," said Peg Jordan, R.N., founder and editor of American Fitness Magazine, "yet today’s lifestyles put many in contact more often with the very health risks they’d like to avoid. That’s why it’s especially important for people to understand that following a few basic personal hygiene and household cleaning practices can help keep themselves and their families healthy."

Controlling health risks is a challenge that requires making knowledge and behavior more consistent. "Much like people recognize the role of diet and exercise, they also know the importance of cleanliness in maintaining good health," said Jordan. "But tra nslating that understanding into everyday behavior is often hard to do. When it comes to our personal environment, knowing where cleaning and disinfecting can make the biggest contribution in safeguarding health can help us develop an easy-to-follow clean ing routine."

The Bad Guys: Bold Mold and Mighty Dust
While 80% of Americans recognize mold and mildew as a health hazard, more than half fail to recognize the health threat caused by common household dust.

"It’s important to realize that dust, like mold and mildew, is an allergen and poses potential health threats," said Jordan. "Regular dusting and cleaning of wood surfaces and laundering of bed linens, as well as controlling the growth of mold and mildew , can reduce allergens in the home." Jordan added that prolonged exposure to allergens can result in irritation of the eyes, nose and throat for the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies.

Disinfect Decisively: Just Read the Label
Two-thirds of adults (65%) don’t understand that disinfectants have a wait time to work. To get the full germ-killing benefits of disinfectants, it’s important to read and follow their label instructions.
"Unsanitary food preparation areas, such as countertops, cutting boards and sinks, have a direct link to foodborne illnesses," said Jordan. "Proper cleaning and disinfecting of kitchen surfaces before and after preparing food can help reduce the threat o f foodborne illnesses." When used as directed on the label, EPA-registered disinfectants and disinfectant cleaners provide extra protection because they go beyond simple cleaning to kill or control the growth of microorganisms like Salmonella and E. coli that can cause illness.

Camp Damp: Where Germs Thrive
The connection between germs and moisture is understood by most Americans (81%). "Kitchens, bathrooms and other areas in the home where moisture collects are breeding grounds for common germs and allergens," said Jordan. "Sponges and dish cloths are als o a favored environment for foodborne bacteria." Keeping surfaces in these "hot spots" as dry and clean as possible, along with frequent laundering of sponges and dish cloths, will help control the growth of moisture-loving mold and mildew, bacteria and o ther potential health threats.

Lather-up America: A Warmer, Longer, Sudsier Wash Cleans Up
Eight out of ten (80%) Americans know that handwashing is an important precaution against passing along germs, and over 90% report that they wash their hands after going to the bathroom. But, almost half can do a better job washing them.

"Americans are washing their hands too briefly – and under cold water," said Jordan. "The good news is that the problem can be easily corrected: just wash the front and back of your hands, between fingers and under nails, scrubbing for at least 15 seconds with soap and warm water." Not washing properly can pose health problems by spreading germs among family, friends and co-workers. Antibacterial soaps may be the right choice for those with a particular concern about reducing the transfer o f bacteria.

The 1998 SDA National Cleaning Survey, which included interviews with approximately 1,000 adult Americans, 18 years and older in the United States, was conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide Research, Inc.


1998 SDA National Cleaning Survey
Key Research Findings

Americans today spend over 90% of their time indoors -- a fact that places added emphasis on the importance of maintaining a clean home environment -- or "home health."

"Just as people know they should eat right and exercise for reasons that go beyond physical appearance, they should also realize that cleaning regularly and practicing good personal hygiene can help keep them healthy," according to Peg Jordan, R.N., found er and editor of American Fitness Magazine.

A recent survey conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide Research for The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) revealed that many Americans understand the connection between health and hygiene, but lack some key information that can help protect themselves and their families against the spread of some germs and allergens that can cause illnesses.

  • 91% of Americans understand that clean kitchen surfaces are very important to good health.

Cleaning and disinfecting cutting boards and thoroughly washing utensils after each use, keeping surfaces free of food particles and grease in which bacteria can grow, wiping up spills, washing dishes regularly, and using clean sponges and dish cloths ar e essential to good kitchen hygiene.

TIP: Launder sponges and dish cloths frequently, using liquid household bleach in the wash water, and allow the sponges and cloths to dry thoroughly between uses.

  • 88% of all Americans understand that clean bathroom surfaces are very important to good health.

The high humidity of the bathroom plus its frequent use makes areas around the sink, toilet, shower and tub a haven for germs and allergens.

TIP: Regular disinfection of sink areas. toilet bowls, tubs and showers can help keep germs from spreading.

  • Fewer than half (45%) of Americans believe that regular dusting is very important to their overall health.

Household dust contributes to respiratory irritations and allergies. Regular dusting along with laundering bed linens, cleaning glass surfaces and vacuuming can help reduce allergy symptoms caused by dust.

TIP: Use a clean, soft cloth sprayed with a dusting product to keep dust under control and remove soil that can damage finishes.

  • 65% of Americans don’t realize that it’s important to leave disinfectants on surfaces for a specified length of time to get their full germ-killing benefits.

Disinfectants and disinfectant cleaners have a wait time to work that varies by product.

TIP: To disinfect kitchen countertops and areas you might have touched during food preparation (like refrigerator door handles), apply disinfectant and let stand the time specified on the label before wiping, unless otherwise directed on the label .

  • One in five (20%) Americans don’t know that germs can live longer on damp surfaces than on dry surfaces.

Frequent cleaning of damp surfaces removes moisture and soils which mildew and bacteria need to grow. Keeping surfaces as dry as possible also helps create a healthy home environment.

TIP: To control the growth of mold and mildew, use a mildew stain remover on tub and shower walls and vinyl shower curtains.

  • 31% of Americans don’t know that warmer water makes handwashing more effective.

Warm water makes it easier for the soap to loosen dirt and rinse germs down the drain.

TIP: Washing hands with soap and warm water -- before preparing and eating meals, after using the bathroom or diapering a child, after handling a pet, and before and after coming in contact with someone who is sick -- is one of the easiest ways to prevent germs from spreading.

  • 43% of Americans aren’t aware that longer lathering time makes for a "cleaner clean."

A thorough handwashing with soap and warm water reduces the risk of transferring germs to others and to inanimate surfaces like toys and door handles.

TIP: At least 15 seconds of lathering time are needed to properly wash your hands. Those wanting extra protection against some common disease-causing bacteria may want to use an antibacterial soap.


Who's Keeping House?
A Look at American Lifestyle Changes That Affect Our Cleaning Needs

NEW YORK, NY, March 20, 1998 – The physical effects of El Niño have been devastating: toppled trees, eroded beaches and wrecked real estate, to name the most obvious examples. But even in parts of the United States not victim to El Niño’s direct wrath, the milder temperatures and heavier rainfall have left their mark -- inside the home -- causing the country’s normal household counts of mold, fungus and other allergens to increase.

According to Peg Jordan, R.N., founder and editor of American Fitness Magazine, El Niño’s assault on the home environment has caused an alarming increase in bronchitis, sinusitis and other respiratory illnesses that can be offset by a regular clean ing routine. In other words, the unusual weather patterns have increased the need for Americans to pay particular diligence to what she calls "home health."

"People need to understand that ‘home health’ is just as important as a nutritious diet and regular exercise to their overall health," said Jordan. "El Niño is only the most timely example of why it’s so important to maintain a clean home – there are man y others. The point is that despite how harried we may feel, we don’t have time not to clean: not cleaning properly and regularly may save time in the short run, but ultimately increases our chances of getting sick."

Looking beyond El Niño, Jordan points to other lifestyle trends that have led to the increased importance of maintaining "home health":

The Great Indoors: Americans today spend over 90% of their time indoors – more than ever before. Children are spending more time in daycare and in school. A greater number of adults are working at home: There are currently seven million telecommu ters and 30 million home-based businesses.

General Aging Population: By 2010, 25% of the population will be 55 years or older. The importance of maintaining a healthy home grows as we age, since our immune system weakens over time.

Double the Income, Half the Time: The ubiquity of two-income families has dissolved the traditional housekeeping roles defined by earlier generations. And Americans are time-stressed – 62% of workers report that they always or frequently feel rush ed. The result? Cleaning and disinfecting often fall by the wayside, and not without ill effects.

According to Jordan, the key to "home health" is proper maintenance of our indoor environments, which includes having a regular cleaning routine that involves dust removal, hard and soft surface cleaning, disinfection of kitchen and bathroom surfaces, and carpet cleaning. Controlling humidity and good air circulation are also key to "home health."